Posts Tagged ‘Manchester United’

There’s a lot of talk this year about the league being more competitive.  It is the job of the mainstream English press to hype up the Premier League, and managers like Arsene Wenger have repeatedly said the league is getting better overall.  But the undeniable truth is that the Premiership is no longer the best league in Europe. The  reason that teams like Sunderland and Newcastle have been able to take so many points off the big four isn’t that the overall level quality has improved, but that the big teams have gone downhill. In fact it’s rather alarming at how badly the big four have all declined. If the current Liverpool, Man Unt., Arsenal, and Chelsea teams were to play against the squad they had five years ago, all of the current teams would have their asses handed to them in a basket.  Just look at the comparison I have made below. Each of the starting elevens from five years ago are vastly superior to the 2010 vintage.  And thats also ignoring the overall squad depth. For example the 2005 Arsenal team I’ve listed leaves out players of the caliber of Dennis Bergkamp, Alexander Hleb and Mathieu Flamini (all players who could easily have walked in the first XI of Arsenal today).

Liverpool 2005-06 Liverpool 2010

GK Jose Reina Jose Reina

RB Steve Finnan Glen Johnson

CB Sami Hypia Martin Skyrtel

CB Jamie Carragher Jamie Carragher

LB John Arne Riise Paul Konchesky

Defensive Advantage : Liverpool 2005

RM Steven Gerrard Dirk Kuyt

CM Xabi Alonso Raul Meireles

CM Dietmar Hamann Steven Gerrard

LM Luis Garcia Maxi Rodriguez

Midfield Advantage : Liverpool 2005

ST Peter Crouch Fernando Torres

ST Djibril Cisse David N’Gog

Attack Advantage : Liverpool 2010


Arsenal 2005-06 Arsenal 2010

GK Jens Lehman Lukasz Fabianski

RB Emmanuel Eboue Backary Sagna

CB Kolo Toure Sebastian Squillaci

CB Sol Campbell Laurent Koscielny

LB Ashley Cole Gael Clichy

Defensive Advantage : Arsenal 2005

RM Freddy Ljunberg Samir Nasri

CM Cesc Fabregas Cesc Fabregas

CM Gilberto Jack Wilshere

LM Robert Pires Andrei Arshavin

Midfield Advantage : Arsenal 2005

ST Thierry Henry Marouane Chamakh

ST Jose Reyes Robin Van Persie

Attack Advantage : Arsenal 2005

Manchester United 2005/06 Manchester Unt. 2010

GK Edwin Van der Sar  Edwin Van der Sar

RB Gary Neville John O’Shea
CB  Rio Ferdinand Rio Ferdinand
CB Mikael Silvestre  Nemanja Vidic
LB John O’Shea Patrice Evra

Defensive Advantage : Man Unt. 2010

RM Cristiano Ronaldo  Park Ji-Sung

CM Darren Fletcher Darren Fletcher

CM Park Ji-Sung Michael Carrick

LM Ryan Giggs Nani

Midfield Advantage : Man Unt. 2005

ST Ruud Van Nistelrooy Dimitar Berbatov

ST Wayne Rooney Wayne Rooney

Attack Advantage : Man Unt. 2005

Chelsea 20o5/06 Chelsea 2010

GK  Petr Cech Petr Cech

RB William Gallas Branislav Ivanovic
CB John Terry John Terry
CB Ricardo Carvalho  Alex
LB Asier Del Horno Ashley Cole

Defensive Advantage : Chelsea 2005
RM Joe Cole Florent Maluda
CM Michael Essien  Michael Essien
CM Frank Lampard Ramires
CM Claude Makelele John Obi Mikel
LM Arjen Robben Solomon Kalou

Midfield Advantage : Chelsea 2005
CF Didier Drogba/Hernan Crespo Didier Drogba/Nicolas Anelka

Attack Advantage : Chelsea 2005

Why is there such a huge gulf in quality from five years ago? The most obvious answer is that it comes down to financial reasons. Five years ago the state of the economy was much better than it is right now. But that explanation doesn’t hold up for very long. First of all most clubs have increased revenue over the last couple of years, drastically so in Arsenal’s case. Yet Arsenal’s improved finances have not meant any improvement in the first team. Secondly, football clubs live in their own universe far removed from reality. Unemployment in Britain could reach 20% and footballers would still be making 200 000 pounds a week.  In the same time as the global recession has forced governments to cut spending, Real Madrid signed Kaka for 56M and C. Ronaldo for 80M pounds.  There’s as much money as ever in football, and English clubs are still swimming in it.

The only reasons I can  think of the decline in quality is a rather quaint explanation. I think the cliche of money ruining football has come true and is a key reason that the players coming through today are not as good as 10 or 12 years ago.  Youngsters who were graduating from academies in the late nineties were still influenced by old school players who came from the pre-prawn sandwhich brigade days. If you were trying to break into the first team at Man Unt. it meant that you would be training with guys like Roy Keane. At Arsenal you might be training with Tony Adams. Those were the last players to come through before the massive commercialization of today.  I think that for this reason players had to work harder to get a big money contract. The money comes too easily for players now which is a disincentive to push themselves to their limits.  This is why players today are just not as good as they used to be. Hardly any of those who were still up and comers around 2005 have lived up to their full potential. Robin Van Persie isn’t half the player Dennis Bergkamp was and Michael Carrick has never lived up to the expectations of replacing Roy Keane.  One of the only youngsters from five years ago who has lived up to expectations is Carlos Tevez. And that’s about it really.

SO yes, the problem is money I suppose. Too much of it.

Professional sports reveals an incredible amount about the culture and age it is the product of. The values, prejudices, and vices of a particular era are shown thus. Pro sports is a scholar’s dream. Spend a day at Anfield or any sports arena on match day and you will learn about economics, history, sociology and pyschology. The ultimate snap shot of what it is to be alive in the 2010 could probably best be told by the results of the World Cup in South Africa. History is just that – a story, and that’s something that all sports fans love.

‘Bigger than Jesus’

And what would a good story be without its characters? Want to write a story about post-war America? The characters you’ll need to know about are Jackie Robinson, Joe DiMaggio and Cassius Clay. To understand the world today, specifically the western world, look at the big names in the ‘world’s game’.  To explore my theory of football as a microcosm of the real world, consider the result of the housing bubble in America.  We have all been consumed by the financial disaster and global credit crunch which has since ensued. The number one cause of the economic meltdown was of course greed.

How better to illustrate the waywardness of the West than looking at the shocking scale of greed in topflight football? Every story needs a good guy and a bad guy. The bad guy is Wayne Rooney. The ultimate embodiment of a 21st century athlete. The archetypal footballer and celebrity of the most materialistic society in modern history. 40 foot tall bill boards with his face. Very expensive and over-produced Nike commercials. Tabloids writing up front page headlines every time he farts.  Rooney this and Rooney that is nothing unusual, but I believe this is the week that will be the crescendo in the tabloid  area of his career.  Public fall outs with our protagonist, Sir Alex Ferguson, seem to have that effect. David Beckham has spent his entire life trying to make headlines, but the most publicized incident of his life, other than his affair with Rebecca Loos, was when Fergie kicked a boot into his face (which is only one of the reasons that Ferguson is the good guy) . Despite  all the efforts of Manchester United’s many primadonnas and publicity whores to be ‘bigger than Jesus’, no one in modern football has ingrained their image into the collective conscious of football fans more than Ferguson.  Anyone who tries to take him on ends up looking like a fly buzzing around the tail of a giant elephant. The reasons why Sir Alex is so respected are simple; he is the antithesis of what our shallow pop culture says men should be like. Humble and loyal, Ferguson embodies old fashioned virtues that everyone, deep down inside their gut, knows to be the correct way for a man to carry himself.

This is the week that Rooneygate has sent the newspapers and everyone involved in the premier league into a kind of frenzy that I’ve never seen in English football.  It all started months ago before the world cup, simmering, out of public view.  Now everything has been laid bare.  Wayne Rooney’s Manchester United career is more or less over- a result of  greed, immorality, prostitutes, disloyalty, a ridiculously over inflated ego, and fans who are sick and tired of highly paid professionals behaving with the same level of integrity of a common pick-pocket.

Unhappy with the 90 000 pounds sterling paid to him by his employers every week, Rooney has shown more gall than I’ve ever seen- demanding that Man U pay him in excess of 200 000 a week! Never living up to his potential- he’s made a career out of goals that like look great on a highlight reel, but in reality he goes missing or lets down his team when they need him most. He’s an overrated and overpaid player. But what makes him even more unlikeable, and an outright bad human being is the way that he treats his family.  He has publicly cheated on his wife with prostitutes on two separate occasions, the last one being when she was heavily pregnant.  The man is truly shameless.

Who is to blame for this? You might expect me to say that society, or Hollywood, or some other part of the media is at fault.  But the television shows, movies and rap videos that glamorize crass hedonistic materialism are merely indicative of wider trends.  Wayne Rooney is the way that he is because of weak parenting and a lack of scruples.  The contempt he has shown for his wife and the lack of respect for the authority of his manager can all be traced to the values (or lack there of) instilled by his family. This can be said for all humans.  The childish behavior of misters Rooney,Franc Ribery, Tiger Woods, Brett Favre  etc., are I believe related to the break down of family values.  That’s not to say that the parents of all these athletes were necessarily the most guilty party in every case, but something, whatever it is,  allowed their own vanity to take precedence over their family.

The backlash against Rooney from fans, his teammates, and other managers is refreshing in a way.  Too often the bad behaviour of a player is shrugged off as long as he scores goals, or brings in more money to the club. Some Man U supporters took such offence to this whole debacle that they picketed his house.   Although, like all tabloid wars, this story will fade away and be replaced by the next player behaving badly, there is something to gleaned from it.  Nearly everyone is backing up Sir Alex Ferguson. To me that says people don’t really want what the Rooneys, Beckhams, and Ronaldos of this world represent.  We don’t want gold coloured football boots, annoying ring tones, gelled hair and pointless twitters. We want back the world as it’s supposed to be, the one we learnt about in the stories told to us during childhood.  A world that puts honour and loyalty ahead of frivolities. We want decency back.